Electric customers looking to save money should consider switching from Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) to an alternative electric supplier. Being well-informed is the key to knowing if switching is the right choice.
Insiders say opportunities for savings exist in Illinois’ competitive electricity market, which allows consumers to leave their electric utility and shop around for the best deal on power for their homes and businesses. However, those same insiders say that the state’s electric customers are still largely confused and unsure about what a competitor will provide versus ComEd, how reliable the alternative electric supplier will be and how to find out if switching to a new electric company will be a good deal or not.
The only way to answer those questions, consumer advocates say, is for electric customers to do their homework.
Switching Electric Companies Won’t Affect Your Electricity Service
The first thing electric customers need to realize is that no matter who supplies them with electricity, ComEd will still own and maintain all the poles, wires and other equipment used to deliver electricity to their homes or businesses. Whether customers stay with ComEd or switch to an alternative electric supplier, ComEd will still be responsible for responding to power outages and for servicing equipment when it becomes damaged or needs to be replaced or upgraded.
Simply put, switching to an alternative electric supplier won’t make a bit of difference when it comes to the delivery of electricity. And, contrary to what some electric customers think, ComEd won’t punish customers if they buy their electricity somewhere else.
Switching Electric Companies Could Be a Good Deal
Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for the Illinois attorney general, told the Daily Herald that consumers thinking about switching should compare the price of electricity offered by ComEd, which is regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission, with prices offered by alternative electric suppliers.
“The bill that consumers receive from [ComEd] provides information regarding the historic usage and the current price, which can be used for that comparison,” Ziegler said. “Sometimes it is not really an apples-to-apples comparison, depending on the terms of the contract.”
The terms of an alternative supplier’s contract can be a big factor in determining whether it’s a good deal to switch. For example, some contracts offer fixed electricity pricing while others offer variable pricing. With a fixed contract, you’ll be protected from price fluctuations in the market. You’ll pay the same rate for electricity each month, regardless of what happens to the price of electricity.
Consumers should also pay attention to other provisions in contracts with alternative electric suppliers, including potential contract cancellation fees and fees that are levied on customers who fail to use a certain amount of electricity each month.
“Does it Pay to Switch from ComEd?” Daily Herald, June 6, 2011.